TILDA The fash­ion world is ob­sessed with Tilda Swin­ton. Laura Brown asks her how to be the ul­ti­mate orig­i­nal.

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ome­thing weird hap­pens to fash­ion peo­ple when they talk about Tilda Swin­ton. Th­ese folk use the term “ob­sessed” about a pair of shoes, so when it comes to Swin­ton, they ba­si­cally col­lapse, clutch­ing their Dior pearls.

To boil it down, Swin­ton is an orig­i­nal. Yes, she dresses in­cred­i­bly, in ex­otic Haider Ack­er­mann silks, epic Lanvin gowns, and kilts with nubby Pringle sweaters. And she lies in a glass box in a gallery for a week. But she’s also funny as hell. I’ve met her a num­ber of times, had tea, gos­siped. Our last de­tailed dis­cus­sion in­volved un­for­tu­nate male­celebrity Botox.

So while I love Swin­ton for all the fash­ion rea­sons, I thought I’d ask her how I can Tilda-fy my­self. “Su­per easy,” she replies. “Just take your mas­cara off.” Done. How about her famed mys­tique? “I bulk-buy it on­line at a dis­count by the tin. I can hook you up.” Oh, this Tilda stuff is sim­ple.

Though she’s of­ten sans mas­cara, she adores make-up. The new face of Nars, she loves cos­met­ics’ trans­for­ma­tive power. “The won­der­ful thing about make-up for me is that a lit­tle goes a very long way,” she says. “So the pos­si­bil­i­ties of mak­ing new faces with it – in my work – are pretty tan­ta­lis­ing.” What re­mains the same is her sig­na­ture an­drog­y­nous hair­cut. “Sam McKnight was the first one to buzz the sides, about nine years ago. Now Odile Gil­bert cuts it most of­ten, bless her heart. It’s like prun­ing a bush or a very furry an­i­mal.”

Like an an­i­mal, Swin­ton fol­lows her in­stincts. She re­cently starred in a one-woman per­for­mance piece in Paris, Cloak­room, in which she in­spected guests’ jack­ets and in­ter­acted lov­ingly with each and ev­ery gar­ment.

The ex­pe­ri­ence was de­scribed as a “fash­ion show with­out a net.” “Hmm, I sup­pose ev­ery fash­ion show thinks of it­self as net­less,” she muses. “Cer­tainly for most de­sign­ers I know, show­ing their work pub­licly for the first time seems to be an ex­pe­ri­ence akin to throw­ing your­self off a cliff for a sev­en­minute free fall.”

In her own cloak­room at home in Scot­land, you will find “six pairs of gum boots, a pair of an­cient trawler­man’s loafers, one vel­vet slipper, a can of de­icer for the car, three macs, nine pon­chos bought on im­pulse in Mex­ico – rarely worn and never re­gret­ted – four puffy jack­ets, two school­bags, six stripy cush­ions for the lawn, and a framed plac­ard writ­ten by my friend Mark Cousins from our film fes­ti­val say­ing, ‘There is a light that never goes out.’”

As for her ac­tual closet, Swin­ton ex­plains that it’s smaller than her groupies would think. Her sar­to­rial high­light reel con­sists of “boys’ shirts, three kilts, an ex­tended fam­ily of jer­seys, some of which I’ve had since school, Horiyoshi the Third and Bella Freud cardi­gans and scarves, three highly prized Sy­bil Con­nolly skirts for danc­ing, Li­wan night­shirts, sum­mer dresses, and gen­eral Le­banese menswear.”

This is why we silly fash­ion peo­ple love her. She’s the only woman on the big screen, on the stage – and cer­tainly in Scot­land – who owns “gen­eral Le­banese menswear.” So why does she think fash­ion folk get so ob­sessed with her any­way? Her an­swer is both amused and swift: “Now stop this.”

Tilda Swin­ton at a film pre­miere in Ber­lin

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